- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Wal-Mart supports insurance mandate

Wal-Mart, a huge company once criticized for less-than-generous employee benefits, has embraced President Obama’s call for requiring all large employers to offer health insurance to their workers.

The move, joined by a major labor union that sometimes assails Wal-Mart, could add momentum to Mr. Obama’s push for far-reaching changes to the nation’s health care system, which Congress is weighing.

Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest private employer, announced its position in a letter to congressional and administration officials Tuesday.

“We are for an employer mandate which is fair and broad in its coverage,” the letter said. “Any alternative to an employer mandate should not create barriers to hiring entry-level employees.”

That was a reference to some proposals in Congress to have employers pay the Medicaid costs of new hires. Critics say that would discourage the hiring of low-income people.

The letter was also signed by Andrew L. Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, which has more than a million members and counts more U.S. health workers than any other union. Also signing it was John Podesta, who headed Mr. Obama’s transition team and is president of the Center for American Progress.


CIA agent accused of rape surrenders

A former CIA station chief charged with raping an unconscious Algerian woman last year surrendered to federal agents Tuesday.

Andrew Warren, 41, was fired from the CIA earlier this year, according to agency spokesman George Little.

A grand jury issued a one-count indictment against Mr. Warren on June 18 that was unsealed Tuesday. If convicted he faces up to life in prison, according the Justice Department.

Two Algerian women came forward separately in 2008 to say they had been sexually assaulted by Mr. Warren while at his home in Algiers, according to papers filed in federal court in January by a State Department investigator.

One of the Algerian women claimed that she was drinking at a party at Mr. Warren’s home when something made her ill and she passed out, according to the State Department investigation. She awoke believing she had had intercourse, but with no memory of having done so.

The indictment says the supposed victim was not conscious at the time of the Feb. 18, 2008, assault.


California gets OK on auto emissions

The Obama administration on Tuesday approved California’s long-standing bid to set its own tough standards for vehicle emissions linked to global warming.

These standards are immediately effective for California and for 13 other states and the District, which have adopted the same standards, officials at the Environmental Protection Agency said.

By granting this request, the Environmental Protection Agency said it recognized California’s need for a tight emissions program that included limits on climate-warming gases.

National standards match California’s goal for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by 2016. The EPA waiver allows the state to enforce standards for 2009-2011 before the federal targets take effect.

California also has a host of other vehicle regulations, from car windows that reflect more sun to reduce air-conditioning needs to checks on tire pressure.


Sen. Byrd leaves hospital for home

Sen. Robert Byrd’s office says he’s been released from the hospital and is at his Washington area home recuperating from a more than a month-long illness.

The 91-year-old West Virginia Democrat, who is the longest-serving senator, is continuing physical therapy as he recovers from a staph infection he contracted while hospitalized for another infection.

Aides released scant details during his hospitalization, declining even to say where he received treatment.

Mr. Byrd says he’s looking forward to celebrating the nation’s birthday with his family.


Palin: Could pass Obama in a run

ANCHORAGE, Alaska | Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin says she’d come out ahead if she went one-on-one with fellow jogger President Obama in a long run, according to an interview published online Tuesday.

“I betcha I’d have more endurance,” she told Runner’s World magazine.

“My one claim to fame in my own little internal running circle is a sub-four [hours] marathon,” she said, referring to her 2005 sprint in the Humpy’s Marathon in Anchorage. “What I lacked in physical strength or skill, I made up for in determination and endurance,” she said.

A message seeking comment Tuesday from the White House by the Associated Press was not immediately returned.

Mrs. Palin, a 45-year-old former beauty queen who became the first woman and youngest person to be elected Alaska’s governor, is featured in the August issue of the magazine for running aficionados.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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